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Playing Church

I had been waiting for it. I saw little signs here and there, but I still wasn't quite sure.

Finally, on Sunday, my dream came true.

I was doing some homework when my husband, Michael, quietly got my attention and pointed to my daughter in the corner of my bedroom.

She was standing there singing her version of VaShawn Mitchell's "Nobody Greater" into one of her crayons, her dolls and stuffed animals all lined up on the pillows from our bed. Later, she grabbed a book and pretended to read from it and pace the floor, yelling at her toys.

My baby was having "church." My heart soared.

Okay, I thought, we're doing something right.

You see, "playing church" is something I did with my siblings when we were just kids. There were 11 of us, so we had quite a congregation, even as some of us aged out of membership.

While other kids were playing cowboys and Indians and Nintendo, we were having services on the basement steps of our childhood home in Elizabethtown. As the oldest, I was the lead singer, the head usher and the choir director, of course. My brother, Jeremiah, was the drummer and minister of music. My brother, Jerome, sang and played the organ. Every now and then, we had to have a funeral, because my brother Samuel always wanted to be the funeral director.

We took turns preaching. And we acted out things we saw in church. We sang, shouted and danced Pentecostal style all over the basement, whipped our "kids" for "cutting up in the house of God" and had preaching marathons.

I remember once when we moved services outdoors for the summer and my brother Eulaun was standing on a pile of wood preaching the sermon of his life when he fell and broke his arm.

Good times.

At the time, we were just having fun, mimicking the people we saw at church. We didn't realize the underlying value of it all.

My parents were preachers. They loved God and taught us to do the same. Church was like a convenience store, open 24/7. We had church all day Sunday, then prayer meeting on Tuesdays, Bible study on Thursday, and Youth Night on Fridays. On the "off nights", we had to clean the church and attend rehearsals and practices and other meetings.

A year after I graduated from high school (thank God!), the church started a school, so my younger siblings were literally at church all day, every day. Coupled with the fact that my parents didn't allow us to watch television or go to the movies or spend the night at friends' houses or go to ball games or school dances, church was all we knew.

My childhood church had some major issues, some things I'll discuss some other time. But, through it all, we developed a healthy respect for the house of God, the people of God and for God himself.

Even about a year ago, when I vowed never to go to another church, when I lost "church friends" and became angry with "church people" who seemed to be so hypocritical and judgemental and greedy and full of rules and regulations that were meant to keep people bound and unhappy.

Through it all, I still loved God. I still trusted God. I still kept my faith.

And that's what I hope for my daughter. I don't want her to be in church all day and  I don't want her to be raised with rules and issues that cloud her vision of Christ.

But I want her to love God, to have a personal relationship with him. I want her to know people who love God. I want her to learn to worship and respect God.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to "train up a child in the way that he should go."

As much as Michael and I want to teach Michaela how to tie her shoes, ride a bike, clean her room, play basketball and bake cookies, we want to teach her to love God.

I hear people lament that God has been taken out of the schools and out of public places. People want to see the Ten Commandments hanging for city hall and from their child's classroom wall.

But many of those same people don't even have God in their homes. They don't pray with their children. They don't teach them the greatest commandment of all, to love one another.

I believe that God is wherever his people are. If I instill the love of God in my child, he will be with her at the schoolhouse, in the college dorm, in the voting both or wherever she may go. God doesn't live at church, he lives inside his believers.

So while she may be playing church now, one day she will be running the world.

I send her forth with God.